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Wherever you see this icon throughout the site, clicking on it will display a list of photographs for a particular theme. Select any one.
Click on one of the following images to explore a particular theme in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's photography collection.



The invention of photography coincided with a period of great commercial growth and industrialization in the United States. These photographs prove that industry made work for photography, but certainly, photography spurred the success of the commercial it documented and advertised.



With the invention of the daguerreotype and the advancements of photography thereafter, portraiture has become extremely accessible to all who desire to have their likeness preserved, unlike when only the upper classes could afford to commission a painted portrait. The photographs in this selection were taken for as many different purposes. There are studio portraits, documentary portraits, and candid portraits--each capturing some uniquely personal aspect of the sitter, whether we know who they are or not.



"Picturesque" describes a particular type of landscapes and was first associated with European painting in the late 18th and early 19th century. The term applies to depictions of nature which are vividly striking , evoking awe and amazement in the viewer. American landscape painters such as Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, as well as photographers such as Carleton Watkins, Albert Bierstadt and Eadweard Muybridge, popularized this idea through their stunning, expansive views of our country; areas which had never been seen before by the most Americans. The photographs of popular, distinctly American landmarks such as Niagara Falls and Yosemite, which were even more awe-striking since they were taken from life, confirmed the painted grandure of America.





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